Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Halloween

4/26/2015

Working for the Mouse

Filed under: — stan @ 5:18 pm

A couple years ago, we went to see “Pulp Shakespeare” in Hollywood at Theater Asylum. Since then, I’ve been on their mailing list, and this week I got something about some small shows they were putting on this weekend. I read the synopsis about “Working for the Mouse“, and it sounded funny, so we got tickets. The basic story is that it’s a one-man show by Trevor Allen recounting the time he spent working at Disneyland as some of the costumed characters.

It was all really funny and entertaining, and if he brings the show back to L.A., we’ll go see it again. Looking on YouTube, I found a few clips he posted of excerpts from the show. Here’s one about his time working as the Mad Hatter, which he said was a step up from being Pluto, since he didn’t have to wear a full head, and he also got to hang out with Alice:

If he ever brings this show anywhere near you, go see it.

Riding to the 24th Century

Filed under: — stan @ 2:06 pm

If you know any cyclists, you’ve probably heard them talk about doing a “Century” ride, which is to ride 100 miles in a day. But we went one better today. We rode our bikes all the way to the 24th Century. Specifically, to go see the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, which was used as the location for Starfleet Academy in several episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. Kathleen and I went there once on a tour with the Obscura Society, but the only other time we tried riding bikes there, we got rained out in North Hollywood and had to take Metro Rail home.

Today was a good day for riding. The rain from yesterday had blown away, and it was clear, although a bit windy. We headed out, pretty much directly west, across Eagle Rock. And that was where John got a flat. Then we continued on across Glendale and Burbank into the San Fernando Valley. We took Moorpark St a long way before turning north to meet up with the Metro Orange Line bike path, which took us the rest of the way to Van Nuys. We rode in and had a look at the sewage plant administration building. I showed everyone a screenshot of it from “Star Trek”. Fortunately, the wind was out of the north, so the Japanese Garden didn’t live up to the “fragrance” part of its name.

Coming back, we saw that they were having some sort of Mini Picnic in the park next to the sewage plant. Then we got back on the Orange Line bike path and took it all the way back to North Hollywood. We stopped for snacks at Panera there. Then we continued on the Chandler bikeway into Burbank. That was where Jay got a flat. After fixing that, we headed back into Glendale on the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk, which was where we met the miniature horse.

The final part of the ride was the climb back up the Colorado Hill into Pasadena. That never gets old. Or easier. Still, it was a nice ride. And we finally made it all the way to the 24th Century.

55 miles.

Route map and elevation profile


4/25/2015

Another attempt at Strawberry Peak

Filed under: — stan @ 2:26 pm

Today, Karina and I made yet another attempt at climbing Strawberry Peak. The last time we tried, we were stopped by the rock-climbing section on the trail up the ridge to the west of the summit. So this time, we were going up the trail from Red Box, which comes up the ridge on the east of the peak. For this trip, we were joined by Irving and Marie. We all met up at Red Box, and we started up the trail.

It was chilly and cloudy, but otherwise not bad for hiking. The trail description said that most of the climbing was in the last mile, and it didn’t lie. The first part was very easy, but it got kind of steep later on. And when we got higher up on the ridge, we walked up into the clouds.

Irving and Marie turned around after a while. They had plans to go see a movie that afternoon, and they wanted to get back in time. So Karina and I pressed on. It got colder, and it started to sprinkle a bit. We finally came up on top of what looked like the summit. The wind had picked up, so we decided to not look too hard through the clouds to try and see if there was more mountain. We just said, “That’s good enough” and turned around. In the end, though, GPS doesn’t lie. We were a little bit short of the real summit. But it was just too cold to be pleasant.

We tried to keep a brisk pace all the way down, since it was still getting colder. We never did find a sufficiently-sheltered place to stop for lunch, so we didn’t eat until we got back to the car. We had a nice time, but wow, it was cold. And it still means that I’ve still not made it to the actual summit of that mountain since 1986, despite three attempts since then. Sheesh.

The battery in my GPS went dead on the way down, so the map only shows the trip up. But up and back were the same trail, so it’s all right.

Route map and elevation profile

4/19/2015

Gay’s Lion Farm

Filed under: — stan @ 2:54 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a tour in search of a bit of SoCal history. In this case, Gay’s Lion Farm, which existed in El Monte from 1925 to 1942, and at its peak had 200 lions living on five acres where the San Bernardino Freeway exists now.

The actual location of the lion farm isn’t all that far from Pasadena, so I had to make up a kind of roundabout route to get there and back, just to keep to our basic framework of the ride being about 40-45 miles. So we started out riding all the way out to Duarte before turning around and heading back west to Monrovia and then south. But we finally made it to the intersection of Peck Road and Valley Boulevard, and there, right on the freeway embankment, there was a lion statue. There was a small plaque that said that it marked the site of the lion farm. We looked around a bit and took some pictures before moving on. Just a few blocks on the other side of the freeway was El Monte High School, and it has a large statue of a lion in front of it. One article I read said that the statue was of a lion named Jackie, who was the MGM lion in the 1930s and ’40s.

Continuing south, we ended up on the Rio Hondo bike path, and when that let us out on San Gabriel Blvd, we headed north. We ended up in San Gabriel, where we stopped off at the San Gabriel Cemetery to visit Charles Gay’s grave. While we were there, we also saw the statue and memorial for General George S. Patton, who grew up in San Gabriel.

Our snack stop was at Peet’s Coffee in Pasadena. That’s almost at the end of the ride, so we don’t stop there often, but it just worked out that that was the best place we knew along this route.

42 miles.

Route map: http://1134.ddns.net/routemap.php?xmlfile=gayslionfarm

4/18/2015

Baby kangaroo!

Filed under: — stan @ 3:52 pm

A couple weeks ago, I got an email from the Los Angeles Zoo, promoting their new baby animals. In particular, they said that the baby kangaroo was just out of its mom’s pouch, and that they are running a contest to name the new ‘roo. So I thought it would be fun to go see the animals, since it’s been years since we’ve been to the L.A. Zoo. We tried to go last week, but it was totally full and we couldn’t get in. So today we arranged to get up early and get there right when they open at 10.

When we got inside, we headed straight to the Australia exhibit. The baby kangaroo was there, hopping around the enclosure. At one point, the joey crawled back into the pouch, perhaps to nurse a bit. It looked funny with two feet and a tail sticking out of the pouch. In the same place, they had some koalas sitting in the trees, and one of the koalas had a baby with it. We saw baby koalas at the San Diego Zoo a couple years ago, and they’re just astonishingly cute. We also took a turn through the Australia House, which used to be the koala house when it was first built back in the ’80s, but now it’s home to a very sleepy wombat.

At the bighorn sheep exhibit a docent was telling us that they had a five-day-old baby bighorn there, so we stayed there for a bit to watch it trotting around on the fake mountain there.

We got to see the new Rainforest of the Americas exhibit. The high point of that was getting to see feeding time for the giant river otters. Everyone thought they were very cute animals, and they were pretty lively chasing after bits of fish thrown in by the keepers.

Our last stop was the children’s zoo, mostly to see the prairie dogs. I’ve always liked the prairie dog exhibit, complete with clear domes so we can pop up in the middle of the prairie dog town.

It was a fun day, but we don’t have any ideas about what to suggest for the name of the baby kangaroo.

4/12/2015

The Tortoises of Burbank

Filed under: — stan @ 2:28 pm

Today’s bike club ride was a route to Burbank to go see the big desert tortoises that live in the front yard of a house there. We’ve stopped in to see them many times before, but this time we made a point to bring some food for them.

The ride out there was pleasant enough. We took the northern route through La Cañada, coming down Verdugo Rd into Glendale. Then we rode over into Burbank and headed down Chandler. When we got to the tortoise house, they were all just basking in the sun in the yard, and they weren’t moving. Nicholas pulled out some romaine lettuce and stuck it through the fence. One of the tortoises came over and started eating. I had brought an apple, and I tossed it into the yard. After a few minutes, one of the other tortoises noticed it and came over to start eating it. We had some more cut-up apples with us, and we fed them to the tortoises. They seemed to like the apples a lot. They had some other lettuce in the yard already, but they ignored that for as long as the apples held out. But once the apples were gone, they went back to the lettuce. They made pretty loud munching sounds, so I shot a little video of it, just so you can hear the crunch:

After that, we continued on the Chandler bike path out to North Hollywood. We stopped for snacks at Panera, and then headed back the way we came. We turned down Keystone to get to Riverside, passing by the “Chuck Norris Rules” wall. Then we came back by the direct route across Glendale and Eagle Rock, with the always-popular Colorado hill back into Pasadena. It was a nice ride.

44 miles.

4/7/2015

What are the odds…

Filed under: — stan @ 7:14 am

Google Maps updates their aerial views every so often, replacing the old images with newer ones. And I see that they updated the views for Pasadena recently. So what are the odds that the aerial photos they would update with would just happen to have been taken on the afternoon of April 24th, 2014, when a horrific two-truck crash completely closed the eastbound 210 freeway and also took out the Metro Gold Line light rail tracks?

http://www.myfoxla.com/story/25334177/big-rig-crash-on-210-freeway-one-rig-overturned-on-metro-gold-line


4/5/2015

The New George Harrison Tree

Filed under: — stan @ 1:42 pm

A week or so ago, I saw an item in the Los Angeles Times about how they had planted a new tree in Griffith Park in memory of George Harrison. The former tree had died last year after being infested with beetles, which of course made the news around the world. We’d gone to see the stump of the old tree, so I thought we should go see the new tree today. Also, I’d read recently that the city is doing an experiment with allowing car traffic on Mt Hollywood Drive for the first time since 1989 in an effort to relieve congestion brought on by the crush of cars bringing people to the park to see the Hollywood sign. So I wanted to take a ride up there so we could see just how bad it was, and decide for ourselves just what we thought of it.

The day was cool and overcast. It was actually quite pleasant for riding. We headed out by our usual route across Eagle Rock. We had a relatively big group today, and we even picked up a couple new riders on the road who joined us for a part of the ride. We went up into Griffith Park to the observatory, where we saw the new tree.

Leaving the observatory, we went down to Mt Hollywood Drive. We were expecting the gate to be open. GT had been riding up there during the week, and he told us about the traffic on the road then. But the gate was closed, and there were no cars. There were cones and signs directing traffic everywhere, but for some reason, they did not open the gates today. So we rode up to the spot they had designated for people to park to see the sign. And while we were there, we looked back for the first time ever, and we saw that that spot actually has a nice view of the observatory and downtown L.A. We’d never looked back from there before.

Continuing on, we got to the top of the hill, where we regrouped before heading down the other side. Along the road there, we saw movie trailers parked on the road, and then, just around the bend, we saw two wrecked cars. Apparently, they had been filming something that involved those cars, and I guess they weren’t done with them yet. The one that was completely upside-down had a hose connected to it. I presume that this was to pump fuel into it so that it could explode in a fireball, like cars always do in movies.

At the bottom of the hill, we rode into Burbank for our snack stop at Priscilla’s. Then we headed back by way of the L.A. River bike path. Since the Riverside Drive bridge isn’t quite finished yet, we tried an experiment and rode back up Fletcher, but then cut across on a small street we’d never ridden on before to get to Cypress and Figueroa. Then we took Figueroa back up through Highland Park, cutting over on Ave 57 to get to South Pasadena. It turned out to be a pretty good way to go, so we’ll probably do it again in the future.

47 miles.

Here’s the route map and elevation profile: http://1134.ddns.net/routemap.php?xmlfile=georgeharrison

4/4/2015

The Dearly Departed Tour

Filed under: — stan @ 4:45 pm

Today, Lucinda and I went on the Dearly Departed Tour. This is the Hollywood tour that takes us to all the spots where the stars died, as well as a stop at the Pierce Brothers Westwood cemetery, which is the final resting place of many of the biggest stars in Hollywood. I took her on the Helter Skelter Tour about the Manson Family last year, so it seemed like it was time to do the regular tour now.

We had a nice brunch at Off Vine before the tour. That’s still one of my favorite restaurants. Then we headed over to the tour office on Sunset Boulevard. The tour showed us a weird collection of locations, including Bela Lugosi’s last apartment, the apartment in West Hollywood where Marilyn Monroe lived for a time, and the bit of sidewalk in front of the Viper Room where River Phoenix collapsed and died. In between, we had a stop at Pierce Brothers in Westwood, where we saw many of the most famous stars’ graves. And we weren’t even the only parent and kid group on the tour. There was a mother and son, about our ages, who were visiting from somewhere in the midwest. They had even gone so far as to be staying in the motel room where Janis Joplin died. They were making it a complete death-pilgrimage experience.

We had a nice time on the tour. And on the way home, I let Lucinda drive my car for the first time. It was actually her first time driving on the freeway, and she did pretty well at it.

4/2/2015

We’ll meet again…

Filed under: — stan @ 9:10 pm

We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…
But we’ll meet again, and I’ll climb the stairs…

(Apologies to Ross Parker and Hugh Charles)

Tonight was the last practice at the Aon building in downtown Los Angeles. In past years, we had two practices a week for three months leading up to the race there next Saturday, but for some unknown reason, this year they only held six sessions. So most of us hardcore-nutball-stair-climbers were disappointed, but we still showed up. I’m still working on building my fitness back up after the troubles with my back last year, and other issues. Each time I came downtown, I’ve been doing five climbs. The practice course runs from 4 to 55, which is 51 floors, 1,186 steps, 690 feet, and 210 meters. So doing five climbs makes for a vertical kilometer. With my reduced speed this year, it’s an attainable goal, but just barely. The Vertical Mile is right out. Still, I’m making some progress.

The other times I came here for evening practice, my goal was always to do five climbs. The first one, I always aimed for my vertical mile pace of 4 1/2 floors per minute, which gets me to the top in about 11:15-11:20. Then for the subsequent climbs, I just tried to see how close I could stay to that pace, and it usually wasn’t all that close. By the fifth climb, I usually didn’t even bother timing it. But tonight, I was feeling a bit stronger, and I’d remembered to bring along a quart bottle of Gatorade.

The first time up, I managed 11:16, which was right on target. The second time, I kept an eye on my watch for splits. At the mechanical floors on 22 and 42, I lost a few seconds going through the fire doors, but I still felt strong enough to dial the pace up for a few floors afterward to make up the time. And I came out at the top in 11:18, which I was pretty happy about. The third time up, I was starting to drag a bit. I was falling behind the pace by the 20th floor, so I just kept an eye on how far behind I was, with the idea that I just wanted to make the top in under 12 minutes. Having three climbs all under 12 minutes would be the fastest I’ve gone at this since last year, and I managed to make it to 55 in 11:48.

The fourth time up, I was really feeling it. I knew there was no chance of making it under 12, so my goal became to make it as close to 12 as I could. And 12:33 was still not bad, considering that the last few times I’ve done this, my fourth climb was in the 14-16 minute range. So with all that done, I went back down and got ready to do it a fifth time. This time, I started my watch, and my only goal was the make it in under 13 minutes. When I got to 45, I could see it was going to be close. But just knowing that when I got to the top, I could stop. So I was able to put on a burst of speed for the last four floors, and I came out on top at 12:54.

Overall, I was pretty happy with this evening. It’s the best I’ve done in a long time. But on the other hand, I still have a long way to go to get back to the level I was in 2013. For comparison, about a year and a half ago, I was able to do five consecutive 51-story climbs, averaging under 11 minutes each time. That’s not even a pipe dream now. But I’m going to keep plugging away at it. We have the Aon race a week from Saturday, and then the San Diego Towerthon in June.

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